Saints farewell interview: Andrew Kellaway
After bursting onto the scene at Saints early last season, it looked like a big Franklin’s Gardens future beckoned for Andrew Kellaway.
But when the campaign ended it was to be farewell for the Australian back as the appearances dried up, ensuring he would not extend his year-long contract at the club.
Kellaway’s departure was perhaps the most surprising to Saints fans as, at the age of just 23, his best years appear to be ahead of him.
So just why did the player who joined from the Waratahs last summer exit Northampton so soon?
“I only signed for a year and I guess I felt like I have unfinished business back in Australia,” said Kellaway.
“But the biggest part of it is that there’s so many young guys coming through at Saints and there’s probably not a lot of rugby for me to be playing there.
“You’ve got guys like Hutch (Rory Hutchinson), (George) Furbank, (Fraser) Dingwall, Piers Francis and all those sorts of guys so there’s not a great deal of room there.
“Had things been different I probably would have looked to stay but it worked exactly the way I thought it might in the sense that staying for a year was what I thought I’d be doing.”
And he added: “I played more than I thought I would at the start of the year and I was really happy with how I was playing.
“But then things like rotation happen and guys go well, and that sort of stuff is out of my control.
“In the second half of the year all I could do was do as much as I could to help and I genuinely feel I did that.
“I’ve left the club in a better place than when I arrived.
“I loved it, and that’s all that really matters now.”
From speaking to Kellaway, who was on holiday in Israel while conducting this farewell interview, it is clear how much his year in England has meant to him.
The fact he only made 19 appearances and was predominantly featuring for the Wanderers during the second half of the season has not tarnished his view of his time at Saints.
“It’s been a short stay but a good stay,” Kellaway said.
“I said to the boys just before I left that I didn’t anticipate I’d love it so much and want to stay by the end.
“It’s a place I knew nothing about other than what I heard from Rob (Horne) but I quickly learned about the community there.
“There are very few places in the world with a rugby community like Northampton.”
Kellaway has no regrets either about joining Saints or how his time at the club panned out.
“You just talk to them (the coaches) about what you can be doing better but it becomes about other guys having to play poorly - it’s not a matter of what I could have done,” he said.
“Every rugby player deals with the fact that if someone in front of you is playing well, there’s not a great deal you can do.
“It’s a great place for the team to be.
“It was bittersweet because you want to be playing but you want the team to do well and if they’re doing well, not everyone will play.
“Unfortunately this time round it was me that didn’t get to finish the year off but I felt like I did myself proud at the start of the year.”
Kellaway was following in the footsteps of another former Waratahs player, Rob Horne, who was forced to retire last year, in featuring for Saints.
He donned Horne’s 13 shirt for the local derby against Leicester Tigers at Twickenham, and Kellaway says that was one of the best moments of his time at Northampton.
“Obviously the first memory that springs to mind was the game down at Twickenham,” Kellaway said. “Playing in Rob’s No.13 shirt was tough and even tougher with the result, but it was still a highlight.
“Beating Leicester up there (at Welford Road) was pretty cool. It was something I heard about before I came and it didn’t disappoint.
“There are so many highlights and you’re playing with guys like Dan Biggar, Courtney Lawes, James Haskell, Piers Francis.
“I actually Facetimed Dan the other day - he was on a beach in Ibiza having a good time - and he said ‘how did I become friends with a little ginger Australian?’ and you sort of sit there and laugh.
“Rugby takes you to some strange places and I loved it.”
Kellaway made some good friends at Saints and he feels something special is building at the club.
“It’s a pretty special little group they’ve got going on there,” he said.
“Without sounding corny, I’m lucky to have been a small part of it.
“The supporters seemed so happy with where they were in finishing fourth in the Premiership but you could see in the players’ eyes they were disappointed.
“There’s so much drive in that group there and guys like Dan Biggar and Piers Francis are dragging them up.
“Once they get on a roll they’re going to be seriously hard to stop so I think they’re going to be a staple in that top four at least in the near future.
“I genuinely hope one day, once I feel like I’ve done what I can do at home, that I can come over and get another crack at Northampton.”
So what next for Kellaway?
“I’m just sorting through it now, whether I do go back home or have another season abroad,” he explained.
“I’m waiting to get home to chat to my family about it and to talk to other people back in Australia.
“I feel like I’ve got some unfinished business in Aus and I’d like to go back and give that system another shake before I finish up abroad.”
But wherever he ends up, Kellaway will never forget his time at Northampton and how it has helped to shape him as a person as well as a player.
“It definitely made me a better player, and probably not in the way I thought it would,” he said.
“I didn’t play a great deal after Christmas and those are the toughest times of your career, particularly when you’re a rugby player who is not equipped to handle all the disappointment that goes with not playing.
“But learning to deal with that away from my support network - my friends and family - was the biggest thing and it’s something I’ll take with me for the rest of my career and beyond.
“I’m from a big family so you miss them all the time.
“I’m the equal youngest of three brothers so I speak to my brothers all the time. They didn’t come over and mum and dad didn’t. I’d have loved them to come over and see a game at the Gardens but it wasn’t to be.”